Hunter Biden Trial: Will the 25-Person ‘Elephant in the Room’ Sway Jurors?

Hunter Biden has spent the last week in a Delaware federal courtroom listening closely as prosecutors reveal salacious details of his long struggle with drug abuse. And his family has been right there with him.

First lady Jill Biden has attended almost daily, usually seated next to her stepson’s wife, Melissa, and surrounded by several family members and close friends eager to show their support. On Monday, at least 25 people made up Biden’s courtroom fan club—squeezing into three rows in the gallery and spilling into a fourth.

“From what I have seen, if one of their backs is against the wall, they are there for each other,” Jill Biden’s former press secretary Michael LaRosa told The Daily Beast. “That’s who this family is.”

The first family’s presence was so palpable that Assistant U.S. Attorney Leo Wise was forced to address their presence at the start of his closing arguments on Monday, urging jurors to ignore them and instead focus on the evidence showing Biden lied about his drug addiction on a form to buy a gun.

“All of this is not evidence,” Wise said before waving his hand around the packed courtroom, adding that jurors may recognize the regular attendees. “People sitting in the gallery are not evidence.”

But the family affair at the federal courthouse is hard to ignore.

On the first day of trial, Jill Biden was reportedly visibly emotional as prosecutors played experts of Hunter Biden’s audiobook in which he delves into lurid stories of his addiction to drugs and alcohol. At one point she reportedly put her arm around her daughter, Ashley.

Despite attending a D-Day commemoration ceremony with President Joe Biden in France on Thursday, Jill Biden returned to court on Friday before jetting off the next day for a state visit in Paris.

“This is what she does best,” said LaRosa, who served as her press secretary for a little over a year in 2021. “She shows up for her kids regardless of public scrutiny or politics. She has been in Hunter’s life since he was 5-6 years old. She helped raise him. So mom always comes first for her.”

Melissa Cohen Biden and Kevin Morris walk outside the federal court on the day of Hunter Biden's trial on criminal gun charges, in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., June 10, 2024.

Melissa Cohen Biden and Kevin Morris walk outside the federal court on the day of Hunter Biden’s trial on criminal gun charges, in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., June 10, 2024.

Hannah Beier/Reuters

LaRosa said that the show of familiar support for Biden is not unusual—because the family always puts each other over politics.

“Things that would normally be private for them have taken on a much more public significance and, because of that, there is extra incentive to be there for each other. That’s what you are seeing,” he added. “That’s who this family is.”

The prosecution and defense cases themselves have also forced the internal Biden dynamics out into open court. Three family members had to tell jurors about their relationship with the president’s son and his dark struggles with addiction, including Hunter’s 30-year-old daughter, Naomi, who briefly hugged her father after testifying for his defense.

Prosecutors allege that Biden, 54, lied on an October 2018 federal firearms application when he was asked whether he was addicted to drugs. Defense attorneys, however, insist that Biden did not knowingly lie—and was in a “deep state of denial” about his drug use at the time.

“Jurors will likely have sympathy for Hunter and his family being there for him could serve to bolster that feeling,” said Jill Huntley Taylor, a professional trial consultant who is not connected to the Biden case. “Jill Biden is a proxy for Joe, showing he has the love and support of his family. It could demonstrate the frailty of humans, even those with resources and support.”

Rev. Christopher Bullock, a long-time family friend who has attended two days of the trial, sitting directly behind the first lady, told The Daily Beast that while the Biden family is “feeling Hunter’s pain” they are also aware that their every move is on display—both for the jury and the press.

“You see laughter, you see tears, deep concern, hugging one another, holding hands,” Bullock said. “They are not saying much but they are engaged… they are aware people are watching their every move. It’s strength on display.”

Their support was not unusual either, he said. “They stick together through thick and thin and they always gather around each other.”

Bullock, the pastor of the Canaan Baptist Church of New Castle, has been among the rotating cast of allies on Biden’s side of the courtroom. President Joe Biden’s brother James and his wife were also among them. During breaks in the trial, the group has reportedly been seen hugging, fist-bumping, and laughing in the courtroom hallway. Afterward, some of them—including Biden’s daughter, Maisy, who did not attend court—even accompanied Hunter to dinner.

“We prayed with him today,” Bullock said after court on Monday. “Hunter was strong but concerned. I think the power of prayer resonated with him and I hugged him and he hugged him and both in the prayer circle were serious about it.”

While he wasn’t sure if the jury saw their prayer circle, he believes they’re aware of the large support for Biden in court. California defense attorney Mark Sedlander added that if the jury was not fully aware of Biden’s fan club before Monday, they would be after the prosecution’s closing arguments.

“They likely felt they needed to address the 25-person elephant in the room,” Sedlander, who is not connected to the case, told The Daily Beast. “Legally, the jury should not consider it, and for good reason, judges instruct juries to consider only the evidence. But jurors are people. And they tend to notice what happens in the courtroom, even if it is not in evidence.”

“So, even though the presence of Mr. Biden’s friends and family is ‘not evidence,’ the jury will likely consider it during deliberations, even if unconsciously,” he added. “If it has any effect on deliberations, it would likely be favorable for Mr. Biden.”

This post was originally published on Daily Beast

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